Q&A With OATS SLO
OATS SLO is an organic airbrush and tanning salon based in California’s beautiful central coast. Since opening their first location in San Luis Obispo in 2015, they’ve opened a second location nearby and hope to further expand with a third. OATS offers clients airbrush tanning, as well as other beauty services such as lash lifts & tints, cryotherapy. They also produce their own at-home tanning product line for customers.
On a recent visit, we sat down for a chat with OATS owner, Haley Murphy. Haley’s business sense, work ethic and self-belief made it possible for her to turn a mobile tanning side hustle into a full-time business that she has expanded beyond what she thought possible.
V: What inspired you to start your business?
H: I started out by spray tanning on the side for extra cash while working for my dad as a dental assistant. I quickly realized that I could make more money by turning my spray tanning side gig into a business. Bottom line, I want to make people feel beautiful. I love making people feel pretty with the use of natural beauty products.
V: What does OATS stand for?
H: Organic Airbrush and Tanning Salon. I used this name because the tanning solution I use is DHA-based. It’s derived from sugar beets, which react with our natural amino acids to oxidize and stain the skin. I don’t add any preservatives, parabens or fragrance. I go through the solution so quickly that there’s no need for additives.
It’s worth it for me to spend more money to provide my clients with a higher end & better quality product.
V: Starting your own small business can come with many challenges. Did you ever consider quitting or stopping?
H: Absolutely not. You have to want it and you have to know it’s not just going to happen overnight. I was willing to give it my all. Nothing was going to stop me until I reached my goals with this business. People called me crazy for opening a tanning salon but I just knew in my heart that there was a market for it and that I was going to make it work.
V: What are the hardest parts about owning and operating your own small business?
H: Not having luxuries like paid time off, sick pay, maternity leave and promised benefits.
I rarely have time for anything other than my business. I am always fully booked and put a lot of time and heart into OATS. But there are also a lot of benefits to that!
V: What are the best parts about running a small business?
H: I have the freedom to make my own schedule, work when I want to, and I get to be creative.
As a business owner, I also have more flexibility and opportunity to grow, as opposed to working for someone else and waiting for a raise from a company. The sky is the limit when you have the flexibility to expand your business as much as you desire.
V: What is your favorite service that you offer?
H: Definitely tanning because that’s how it all started for me. I love it because it’s instant gratification; I can fit in four clients in an hour and can immediately see them looking more confident. I feel good knowing that what I do is much safer than going out in the sun and risking sun damage. It doesn’t put your health at risk.
V: What do you spend time doing when you’re not busy working?
H: I love to spend time with my husband, my three dogs and ride horses!
V: Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners?
H: If you’re good at what you do, love it and believe in it, it’s going to work. Aside from that, my advice is to have a mentor you can go to with questions and for support. Have people you can lean on, and don’t give up even if it’s slow at first. Your mind is a powerful thing and if you doubt yourself, you’ll take the easy way out. Sticking with it until you see success is so worth it.
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